The gift of my community

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(the view from my neighbour’s house. Because it’s healthy to change perspective once in a while)

 

When I came to the forest I was surprised to see that other people lived here. I mean, sure, you expect the solitary weirdo here and there – but I didn’t realise that so MANY people would live here.
Oh man, the people we’ ve met!

Soldiers. Telling stories of love. Hermits. Telling stories of empires. Young people telling stories of age, families telling stories of change. People wandering. People resting by the fire. People passing through. People settling.
Students who refused to be reduced to machines. Healers who came to heal themselves. People from all over the world. There is a whole subculture of resistance or, should I say, a whole subculture of people who have opted out. They just don’t care anymore. Or maybe they care TOO much.
Gardeners who came to grow. Poker players who came to rest. Climate scientists who came to build ark’s. CEO’s who came to be “REAL men”. Sturdy young men who came to be silent. Clumsy sensitive poets who came to write manifestos of stealth. Stressed out and depressed people who came to work. Hippies and hipsters who came to work. A lot of people came to work actually. As if working with your hands, really working, is some kind of deep human need. A need that can’t be ignored.

Yes. I have met so many people here and that’s why I know that I am not alone and that’s why I dare. To share.

I thought I was alone.
For the longest while.
All of my life.
I’m not. I’m not.
You’ re not.

Some pass through and travel on. Most pass through and travel on.
For a moment I thought we were supposed to be some kind of refugium but I’ ve given up on that. Now I direct people on to my neighbours if the ask me for advice or a place to stay. Being a refugium is to expand the body more than the body can stand.

 

Regarding my neighbours… I don’t tell you a lot about them. I respect their privacy, but today I’ll tell you a little bit about them because they are actually a huge part of our lives here.
Not because we see them a lot or hang out. God no! Most of the people who come to live in the forest are forest people. Not village people.

I’ ve been thinking about the concept of community for a while. It seems as such a modern mantra but not all of us are “community people”, maybe?

Besides, when looking in from the outside a lot of the communities taking form right now… they look a lot alike..
Same kind of people. Same kind of story. Same kind of layout, structure, goal.

I want to tell you about MY community because I think we are a different kind of community, maybe we’ re not even a community. I still want to tell you about them though.

I really truly think that what we need in this world is diversity. Monoculture is everywhere. In our heads the most.

 

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1.
We seem to have settled on the metaphor of being neighbours instead of being ” a village” (mostly because we live far apart but it’s also something psychological)
We don’t have grand meetings or clubs, we seldom do anything together, most of us are too busy working the land in the summer and in the winter you can’t leave the house because you need to feed the fire, hibernation comes naturally. So we have no structure and we have no agenda. I find this lack of structure liberating.
We do not have a common project, we do not vote for the same people-  if we vote at all, we do not believe in the same gods or eat the same kind of food, we don’t wear the same kind of clothes and we work for many different reasons. We’re just neighbours.
We are exploring the concept of being neighbours.
It seems as if there was a time when being neighbours mattered somehow. Mattered more. Maybe it should again?

 

2.
Because we live as we do (to a different extend) we are all very exposed and vulnerable. One one hand we’re all very viking-amish on our homesteads but there comes a vulnerability with living alone, primitive, simple, self sustained. We do not have the systems or structures around us. We stand alone. Exposed. Naked.
So if your cars breaks down or you can’t find your tools or you run out of sugar or money… then there is a law. It is unwritten and we don’t need to talk about it a lot.
We help each other. Period. We are obliged by common decency. And honour.

When I was paralysed due to back problems my neighbour came every day to do some of the house chores. It was difficult and hard to receive that help (I’m not good at receiving help, it makes me uncomfortable) but it was what kept Jeppe from drowning and me from total surrender.

This law that we have…  it doesn’t mean you have to help every wandering hipster you encounter in the forest, butnaked on mushrooms or something (as an example/but we do) or that people are not required to be self-sustained and somehow strong (because people as such are supposed to) it just means that we look out for each other and should one of us fall and break a leg or whatever… we don’t even need to talk about it.
It’s obvious. You help.

We depend on each other. We are dependent on each other.
This can not be exploited (which is also why we are not “open” for everyone, not anymore) but the hardest thing is actually understanding it, receiving it.

 

3.
I’m a flower child. Spent some of my childhood in hippies collectives there’s much to say about that but I’ll do it some other day what I want to say now is: BOUNDARIES.
Please. Can we have some of that?

I think that a lot of the people in this day and age “returning to nature”, opting out, leaving the loop, going green, working with gift and sharing economy ect ect- we owe much to the hippies. A lot of groundwork was layed back then. They built us this  kind of wobbling foundation but then they got their big fat jobs and…well yeah… some other day. What I mean to say is that I respect the hippies a lot. Sweet smiley. But I think that one of the reason the movement died and lost so miserably to capitalism was because of the lack of boundaries. Too much free love, too many stimulants. And, more importantly, a perverted strange notion that we should all love each other EQUALLY.
No.
I don’t love all of my neighbours in the same way. I like some of them better than others. I tell one neighbours stuff that I don’t tell another. My relationships with my neighbours are DIFFERENTIATED and they’re not all my dad.

When building and creating communities I think this is most overlooked. I don’t think we’re supposed to have equal depth of relationship with everyone. It’s all right that we have MANY kinds of relationships. As I said: Monoculture.
Let’s not have that.

This is a lot harder than it seems when it putting it into words because we were somehow raised to have a standardised vision of what is “good” and what is “bad”. Could a good neighbour be several different things? Depending on circumstances and personalities? And is it really ok if I don’t want to be best friends with everybody? Does other kinds of relationships even exist?

Such are more thoughts about community. My two cents. All that I’ ve said is on me. It’s not something we have talked about like that. Or defined. We’ re not even a community so….

Every 14th day we meet ( you only go if you feel like going, no obligations)  to eat cake and drink coffee and debate fire wood or snow or something. It’s really nice. I can’t find the words right now to tell you just how much I appreciate it.
The kids play all day outside and the adults just hang out (not everyone in the picture, we tend to move around a lot). Sweet bunch of people. Nicest neighbours in the world!

 

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Lastly I want to tell you about Debby’s blog. Debby is one of my neighbours. She’s insane. You can never compete her. She has a cupboard full of canned… everything. Always food for two years in her pantry. Four freezers on solar power stuffed with meat from her own animals. I respect her a lot. She’s just wonderful.

5 thoughts on “The gift of my community

  1. I do hanker for another freezer, myself. What a wonderful thing, that all of you get together so often. I have been longing to do something like this with our neighbors. We live within sight of four other families–all of them very young, and my husband and me grandparents, with grown-up (and some not) children. We are all, I believe, independent sorts, and that is one reason that we all took to the country. Yet even independent sorts like to chaw about the weather and exchange cookie recipes, right? Even if some of them (us) are geezers.

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  2. Nice thoughts, Andrea. I loved the 2nd paragraph which started
    “Soldiers. Telling stories of love. Hermits. Telling stories of empires. Young people telling stories of age, families telling stories of change. People wandering. People resting by the fire. People passing through. People settling.” …. gamblers resting 🙂
    I am with you on the hippies. Would love to hear your full hippie story though.
    Sounds like your community is pretty healthy. When I first discovered your blog, I was so excited to read all your experiences, as we had been fixing up our suburban house to sell for the last 4 years so we can move the h**l out of here. My problem is that I was not/ am not sure how far in the woods I want to go. . Still, after reading you about forest, and Ben and others about farms, I am struggling with this exact notion, how much freedom vs community my kids and I would need.

    You touched on this huge topic here. Is it when the needs of the individual are met, it will allow for healthy relationships to flourish.
    Or if the needs of the relationship are met, it will allow for a healthy individual to flourish.? Chicken and the egg question.

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  3. A dear friend just introduced me to your blog and I am so very glad that she did. Such a refreshing combination of words and thoughts you have offered us here. Thank You for writing. Wintry Blessings, from another country-life, lived next to a fir-wood, on the Pacific West Coast of Canada.

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  4. Greetings from Massachusetts USA. Your Yuletide Gifts have been a gift to me. At some point in the next year or so my husband and I will be moving to a “senior” community close to where our son and family live. The next chapter of life is starting to emerge and I am doing a lot of thinking about “community”, trying to think positive thoughts. As you age community becomes less an abstract concept and much more a real need. This will be our move to the woods. Haha and I am looking forward to paring down.

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  5. Thank you so much for this. You address many of the things I touched on in my comments to yesterday’s article and I needed to hear this perspective.

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